Environmental Psychology

What is Environmental Psychology?

Environmental psychology is a specialized sub-branch of psychology. It is concerned with determining the connection between the physical environment and human behavior. For the purposes of environmental psychology, the definition given for ‘environment’ is quite expansive. It includes not only the natural environment but also all environments which are man-made, including both learning and social environments. This includes everything from cities, parks, towns, schools, and workplaces. Whereas most other branches of psychology deal with the humans and their interactions with one another, environmental psychology deals with human psychology in the context of different environments.

Environmental psychology is an interdisciplinary field. It not only seeks to improve individual and societal well-being through a greater understanding of how the environment affects people; it also aims to better understand complex environmental problems.

The Importance of Environmental Psychology

In the 21st century, there are a number of environmental challenges that have presented themselves. This includes climate change, overpopulation, extinctions, pollution, and biodegradation. These changes are having and will continue to have a profound impact on the well-being and psyche of individuals.

By showcasing the direct link between the environment and the people who rely on it, environmental psychologists are working to improve the relationship between humans and their surroundings. This involves illustrating the value of the human-environment connection and providing solutions to mitigate the harmful effects of degrading the environment.

How to Become an Environmental Psychologist

Since environmental psychology is a specialized branch of psychology, individuals interested in pursuing this career need to satisfy a number of educational qualifications. In general, the path to becoming an environmental psychologist looks something like this:

Steps to become an environmental psychologist:
1. Get an undergraduate degree in psychology or environmental science or environmental studies
2. Get a master’s degree in environmental psychology
3. Get a Ph.D. in environmental psychology
4. Get relevant training and experience

Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Psychology

If you are interested in pursuing a career in environmental psychology, you will need to start off by getting a bachelor’s degree. For your four year undergraduate program, you have a few options when it comes to programs you can enroll in. You will also need to take a variety of courses which focus on psychology and environmental studies.

Some of the bachelor's degree options available to you include:

Bachelor’s degrees for a career in environmental psychology

  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
  • Bachelor of Science
  • Double major of environmental science and psychology

 

As mentioned earlier, environmental psychology is a degree which is interdisciplinary in nature and incorporates a wide range of fields. Some of the courses you may want to take at the undergraduate level include:

Useful courses for environmental psychology

  • Geography
  • Urban development and planning
  • Political science
  • Sociology
  • Environmental science
  • Sustainable development

 

Master’s Degree in Environmental Psychology

After completing your bachelor’s degree, you will need to enroll in a master’s program. Dedicated graduate programs in environmental psychology are rare. However, students can enroll in a master’s program in psychology with a concentration in environmental studies. Alternatively, you can enroll in a Master’s degree in environmental studies and take courses in psychology.

Degree

Duration

Some of the courses offered

Master’s in Environmental Psychology 

2 years

  • Psychology of Sustainable Development
  • Social Change and Influence
  • Key Questions in Environmental Psychology: People and Place
  • Ergonomics and Human Factors
  • Qualitative Research Methods
  • Quantitative Research Methods

 

Ph.D. in Environmental Psychology

Specialization in the field of environmental psychology begins at the doctoral level. Students will learn the basic theories of environmental psychology as well as key research techniques used in this field. During the program, students will carry out independent work as well as be involved in research groups. These programs also typically culminate with a dissertation.

Degree

Duration

Some of the courses offered

Ph.D. in Environmental Psychology

2-4 years

  • Environmental social science
  • The ecological conceptions of psychology
  • Environmental sociology
  • Statistical methods in Psychology

 

Career Prospects and Salary

Environmental psychologists can work in a wide variety of settings depending upon their qualifications. The following data is taken from the American Psychological Association’s Division 34 – the Society for Environmental, Population, and Conservation Psychology:

Settings where an environmental psychologist can work

  • In the private sector as researchers
  • In federal government positions
  • In non-profit organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
  • In scientific organizations or universities in academic positions

There are no specific salary figures for environmental psychologists because they work in a wide range of settings in different capacities. In general, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that in 2015, psychologists made a median salary of $72,580. Furthermore, till 2024 the profession is expected to see job growth of 19%. This is much higher than the average rate of growth which is 11%.

 

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